Peter P. Wegener
Harold Hodgkinson Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science
William J. Derry, Drama Teacher
Comprehensive Arts Program
Lois Van Wagner, Science Teacher
East Rock School
Hermine E. Smikle, Mathematics Teacher
Roberto Clemente Middle School
Sylvia D. Ducach, Foreign Language Teacher
Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School
Jane K. Marshall, English Teacher
Cooperative High School
It is indeed gratifying that each of you would take the time to come to New Haven for this conference. The majority of you represent 26 programs working in, by your own account, 15 urban, 6 suburban and 5 rural locations.
Twelve, almost half of the institutions or programs represented here, were represented also in our last conference in 1986. For our own part in New Haven about 40 New Haven public school teachers and Yale faculty members participate in different roles, but in rough equal numbers. Similar numbers of Yale and school administrators will also take part. And we have as our special guests, today and tomorrow or both, a number of individuals included here in other capacities. Again, by your own account, our combined work annually involves across the country for 5,000 school teachers, 450 college and university faculty members, and affects, by your account, in some way, the education of tens of thousands of students in elementary and secondary schools.
The first conference the Institute organized at Yale was held in this room in 1983 and addressed the role that colleges and universities can and must play in assisting public schools through various forms of collaboration. The second conference we organized in 1986, again held in this room, focused more sharply and directly on the ways in which school-college collaboration can strengthen teaching in schools. We continue that focus on teaching into the present meeting and emphasize the ways in which by writing curricula and other types of classroom materialsteachers participating in collaborative programs can apply what they have studied in their own classrooms. We also want to pay attention here in particular to the evaluation of the results of our efforts in collaboration, and to the possibilities for public and private support which might assist in making more systematic and widespread what we know to be effective, collaborative practices.
We have organized this conference, as we did in 1986, very much in the same manner and as we organize the Institute's own seminars in New Haven. That is, we sought first to identify the collaborative programs and individuals whose own work indicated that they might be interested and might benefit from a conference on this subject. We then asked who, among those we had identified, might wish to take part and what were topics they would wish to consider at the meeting itself. Finally, we constructed a program to address these issues that they identified, that you identified, which have been now compiled in a document provided in your registration material last evening and this morning.
As is also the case in our own Institute, we emphasize that all of you who are participating in this meeting are our professional colleagues who have equally important contributions to make, precisely because we intend for what we discuss here to apply in specific ways to the ongoing development of our respective programs. That is why we want this conference to focus on discussions of practice and of the issues in our work which cut across the differences in our own institutional settings and administrative structures and the other details of our own programs. So, as we begin, my own hope most of all, is that we have designed a program that will prove useful to each of you who has taken the time to be here.
It is my pleasure next to introduce the chair of our first conference panel who will introduce his companions. No other Yale faculty member has led more seminars than Thomas R. Whitaker, who is Professor of English and Professor of Theater Studies at Yale. We therefore are exceedingly fortunate that he assisted in the preparation of our panel on Teaching in New Haven: The Common Challenge. And this morning he will chair a discussion about volumes and by extension, the ways in which public school teachers in various subjects and various ways, have developed and thus handed down curriculum materials they have developed while participating in various programs, such as our Institute.
I went through the compilation of suggestions that Jim has already referred to and noted a number that will surely be foremost in the presentations this morningthe whole question which came up in a variety of ways of revision and development of curricula, collaborative efforts for establishing curriculum. What should be included in models for teacher's preparation? How does one prepare more engaging and varied materials that can be found in textbooks? How to foster collaboration not just in transmitting information, but also in discussing pedagogy, fostering of collegiality, reliance of teachers on their own professional authority?
In my view all of those are quite central to the Institute's efforts and we do that, as many of us already know, by seminars that involve common reading, preparation of individual units in stages in those seminars with ample opportunity for consultation and seminar topics themselves prepared, as Jim indicated, as a result of the consultation with the teachers. Others of you have been concerned with multicultural curriculum, balancing the traditional canon and multicultural literature. Many of our seminars have addressed that in various waysseminars on fiction, poetry, drama, autobiography that have brought in Afro American and Hispanic material, native American, Asian-American material in conjunction often with Anglo- American works. Many units I know have started with the aim of preparing for Black History Week, for example, and have expanded that into a larger portion of the term. Two of the Fellows particularly may have more to say about such questions.
Science and math is another concern. How can that be worked? How can they be worked into curricula of various kinds? How can issues of science be presented for a broad range of students? Peter Wegener touched on that question, as also the Fellows, and indeed there are a variety of units in this bookand not in this bookthat have tried to relate math to other subjectsinterdisciplinary inquiry central to much of the work in the Institute, as we will see in a moment. Writing across the curriculumthat is also central to the Institute, both in seminars on that topic that have been taught about the writing process generally and writing in various subject matters; and of course the Institute never ignores the writing process through which the units are produced. Combining curriculum development with deeper development of teachers as readers of imaginative literature was another topic; or more generally, how to attain a balance between texts used in high school classes and texts for the teacher's intellectual growth. That is a central question in developing seminars here balancing the common reading for adults with pedagogical applications for classrooms at various levels. And then the concern with how the curricula make their way into existing classrooms. We have been dealing with that both in the classrooms of Fellows and of their colleagues; and you will hear something about the evidence for that kind of distribution in the classroom. Well, the members of the panel this morning have been selected to give some indication of the breadth and variety of the work in the Institute. Since I myself am in the humanities and can answer at least some questions which may be directed in that area, we thought it would be useful to have another Yale faculty member here who can speak to the questions concerning seminars in the sciences. Immediately on my left is Peter Wegener, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science who has some brief remarks on leading a science seminar. Peter has worked internationally, really, on problems of rocketry and jet propulsion and we have been very fortunate to have him lead two seminars in the Institute in 1988 and 1990 on aerodynamics where he has combined history of aerodynamics, science of aerodynamics, and practical implications of aerodynamics; and Peter will comment on some of the problems of such work in the sciences.
The change in topics and the application is in part based on the science background of the teachers. Therefore the work ranged from what I might call pure science to the social aspects of aeronautics. I'll just give you some ideastwo of those, by the way, are in this green volume: the aeronautical industry, the history of the Wright brothers, navigation of airplanes, modelinghow do you make a little model of an airplane in a wind tunnel. If applied to the real thingthe mathematics of flightyou could do very simple things. For instance, you have a certain distance from one point to another point applied to certain speedhow long does it take? Things of that sort. The flight control on the ground, paper airplane making, and flying of paper airplanes was quite popular and so forth.
I found, in both cases, the Fellows highly interested and particularly I found them very dedicated to the basic idea of teaching. This is something that shines through all the time during our discussions. In addition, I found it amazing that after a full day of teaching before the vacation sets in, one can show up at 3 o'clock and have another seminar in which one learns, I suppose, about materials that are indeed new to the Fellows. We had long discussions which, in parts, involved things totally outside aerodynamicsaspects of teaching, social problems, exchanges of views between teachers who obviously could not see each other during the day. And exchange of how you go about handling certain problems, etc. Therefore I looked at it in a collegial manner and did not intrude too much, I hope; and I hope the Fellows enjoyed it. Because I certainly enjoyed it. I was totally ignorant about the school system, I must confess. And I really learned a great deal about it and I began to appreciate the enormous difficulties faced by teachers in New Haven, probably not elsewhere. I do not know. At any rate, I thank you.
Through theater games, improvisations, readings, directing, analyzing the motivation of characters in scripts and the actual performance of scenes, our diverse group of individuals became a community. It was still a diverse group of strong individuals, but united with a common purpose to create a drama-based curriculum which would help our students. I saw the writing process as the practical, objective, product- oriented part of the seminar while I saw the work on scripts and performance as the organic, subjective, process part of the seminar. During the various writing stages we shared resources and ideas on how we might reach students through drama. This was done primarily by exchanging our units after they were written for the second draft and having one other seminar member critique the work that we had done. Then each of us met with Tom Whitaker many, many times to further critique, to elaborate and/or clarify different concepts that we had written about in our units.
At the same time we were writing, we were all busy directing each other and/or being directed by Tom Whitaker in various scenes that we created, and I was memorizing hundreds of lines and unusual body movements for the part of an unhappy Jake in Jules Pfeiffer's Grown- Ups. Antonia Coughlin was learning to be Father Donnelly in Christopher Derain's play Bette and Boo, which Kelly O'Rourke was busy studying in England at the end of the seminar. When she returned she presented her scene from Bette and Boo, which she recorded for youor for all of usand it was done in a living-room. We had Carol Wong who was wearing men's Bermuda shorts to get into the role of Jake's father, and it was really interesting, because she had no drama experience. The beauty of this group was that it was so diverse. She was playing Jake's father and really had a wonderful time exploring movements that would be appropriate for this man, and she came for the final production in her husband's Bermuda shorts to give her that extra boost to play the role. And the interesting thing was that Jeanette Gaffney, who I know is here today as well, was playing the role I was playing as Jake in another group of four people. So we could look at different ways of interpreting the same scene and they were very elaborately developed and we did the whole acts. It was quite a lengthy scene when it was acted out.
The seminar served as a model for the type of experience I wanted to create using drama in a school. My unit "Melting Pot Theater: Teaching for Cultural Understanding" is about integrating the curriculum through theater to promote multicultural awareness. The "Melting Pot Theater" term is not the old-fashioned look at multicultural education; I know the new metaphor is the "salad bowl" where diversity is maintained, not blended together. And the Melting Pot Theater does not refer to that. It refers to all of the curricular areas coming together and being integrated through theater. That is the melting pot aspect. I implemented the unit with staff and students and the help of many artists and organizations last year at Davis Street School.
There are three major ways in which the outcome of the units parallel the actual functioning of the seminar. First, just as our morale as teachers was enhanced by being a member of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, working with our colleagues, and being a member of the Yale community, the morale of the teachers and students at Davis Street School was enhanced by becoming a member of the Davis School Players. Yale is a symbol of quality in higher education, and symbols, by definition, have an unexplainable and magnetic nature. The very act of being selected for the program is an honor. Coming into this environment on a regular basis with our peers develops a broader perspective on our role as teachers; and it lifts us from our individual situation to see things more objectively. In the same way, my unit was designed to make school more interesting and effective in participatory instructionto make kids and teachers see connections and draw conclusions and to try and add symbols to instruction, where, in many cases, only signs are used, as I see it. We have sort of taken symbols out of education because they are kind of controversial and they do create tensionand the beauty of theater is that's why we go to movies and plays. It has tension in it and usually somehow it is resolved. We need some courses in conflict-creation as well, which is what theater is aboutconflict-creation and then conflict-resolution.
The second point is that the seminar provided an environment for the interaction of colleagues and gave us the opportunity to focus on common problems. My unit, similarly, helped to provide an environment for the students and their teachers to work together and to have an opportunity to focus on common problemssuch as how to communicate and play with each other instead of always working and giving information; how to share information and learn how to appreciate the unique traditions and customs of people from other cultures. Just as our group in the seminar created a sense of community through the use of theater games and improvisations, the school created this sense of community while working on and performing the play. Teachers were given the opportunity to change the unit; if you read it, it is a structure, a context. And there are many, many variables in it based on the group you are working with. And in this particular case the title of the script, which was originally "When Cultures Collide," was changed to "Feeling Collectors from Outer Space." And that was done by one group of students who worked on a very interesting scientific spaceship that I should tell you a little more about.
In the original unit I focused on Puerto Rico, Russia, and Ghana. But due to the social studies units being studied in the schools, the teachers chose to focus on Mexico, Israel, Russia, Ghana, and Hollywood, U.S.A. Students made slides from original art work and they used books and they went to travel agencies and they photographed this material and they projected it on the wall next to the stage as the performance was being done. So there were authentic cultural images that were presented at the same time. Four visual artists, a person from Ghana, and a person from Israel visited the school and worked with students. Many parents, of course, helped with costumes and scenery and filled the auditorium during two of the performances. So we had this sense of community which is what theater provides.
And lastly, the seminar, of course, increased our knowledge of the discipline of theater and of contemporary theater, just as the use of the unit helped to increase an entire staff's awareness of the values of drama and expose students to the discipline of theater. What motivates a character? How does an actor prepare for a role? How are forms, style and meaning related in theater? What does a director do? We kept a director's notebook for our scene, which is the first time I had kept a director's notebook. How is a director's notebook like a lesson plan? How can improvisation lead to blocking? Are props necessary? How does theatrical experience translate into meaning for the participants in the audience? How does drama put active experience into the curricula? Students learned blocking, costume- making, choreography, play writing, and ultimately translated culture into theater. In both, the aim of drama was to develop people, not theater.
In order to demonstrate some of these concepts, I have two videotapes that I am going to make available during break. There is a television and VCR in the lobby and there is a sign that explains that videotape #1 is footage of some activities that were led by Tom Whitaker and some scenes that were done by students during the seminar. Videotape #2 is "Feeling Collectors from Outerspace" which is the one I will put on and just have on play. But feel free to rewind, forward or grab somebody from the seminar or myself to add any information to it if you like. I look forward to answering any questions you might have or speaking individually with you about these experiences. Thank you.
This is all fostered by the use of what they call a process. We hear the term process used quite often in our Institute because there is a very definite sequence of events that happens. The beauty of this is it allows first-time curriculum writers to develop confidence as they are writing their curriculum and end up with a finished product that is usable and something they can be proud of, and something that the kids can respond well to. One of the ways that they do this is you have constant work and an ongoing relationship with your seminar leader, and there are deadlines. And deadlines, I know, worked for me, because they make sure that I get done what I need to have done in a timely fashion so that I am not rushed at the very end and do not have the time really to do all the reflecting that I want to do. So the whole concept of deadlines is for me a very valuable part of the process. As one of the parts of the deadlines, you have a prospectus that you put together where you begin to look at a kind of an overview of what you want to do with your students. Then you have a first draft where you begin to pull together some of the materialssome of the academic type of material that you are going to be presenting to the children; a second draft where you then begin to come up with some of your objectives, your methods, some of the lesson plans that you will actually be using with the children, and then your final draft which is the entire unit in its completion. Some of the examples in the book illustrate this probably better than I can say it. In my perusal of that particular book I was quite surprised to see how differently people in the humanities approach this from what science people might be working with.
I was very fortunate with my first unitthe one that was kind of my trial and tribulation at the very beginning. I had an outstanding seminar leader, who was willing to give you all the time that you wanted to answer questionswhether they were technical questions on the writing of your unit or scientific questions, or academic-type questions about some of the material that was new to me. Like probably many of you, I am not teaching in a field that I went to college for. I am teaching geology, earth science, and astronomy, and my major in college was biology. I think that happens to a lot of science people. So having someone to get new information from, to get things that I have learned on my own sort of straightened out in my own mind, is just absolutely invaluable. I think that is one of the best things about the seminarcarrying on some of the education that maybe we either missed or perhaps is even new. I know in the crystals unit I did quite a bit with silicon solar cells, things that really were not even around when I was in college. Even if I had majored in that particular area, they did not exist. So we get the really latest technology by dealing with the Yale people. That has been another real added bonus.
One of the other things that has been very, very enjoyable is working with my peers. As most of you that are teachers know, you are somewhat isolated in your classroom. You do not always get to see other science teachers, or whatever your particular department is, to talk about some of the problems in your classrooms, some of the problems of presentation of certain concepts, and so on, and all this happens during our seminar meetings. We are not only learning new information from an expert; we are also comparing notes with our peerstrying to think of new ways to present something that will be understandable to the children. So peer encouragement, peer support, is vital to this process also.
As I said, I have been working on my unit on crystals or used it for about three years now and I find that of all the material I teach during the year, this is one of the things that I can get most excited about and I see that reflected back from students. I think that is true in a general case. Whatever you are excited about, the children will get excited about, tooand so the response to that particular unit has been very good. I really look forward to doing that one particular unit, which takes up about 6-8 weeks, depending on the group I am using it with. Because it is my own unit, I am very familiar with the materials in it. I have spent a lot of time developing it. And so I can kind of pick and choose depending on the children that I have. If I find that perhaps, maybe a low-ability-level group is really struggling with something, I can then decide whether I want to add more to it and really delve into it with the children or maybe just go on to the next section and work on another aspect of itvery, very flexible, again because you know the insides and outsides of your own unit so well.
Sometimes I have some very high-level-ability students and this is another case where working with the Yale people has been an absolutely outstanding benefit. I have discovered in my years of teaching that in any group there is always someone who knows a lot more about the topic than you do. Particularly in scienceI do not know if maybe that is not the case in other areasbut I know in science you are apt to get a child who, since they have been six years old, has loved airplanes or, since they have been six years old, has loved fossils. They are really experts and they have more questions than maybe you have the background to answer. And it is nice, after working with one of the Yale faculty, to really be able to come up with- -if not the answer that the child is looking fora direction to go in so that you both can find answers. You really get encouraged to go into depth with some of the kids that are really ready for it.
One of the last things I would like to mention are what I call the gifts of the Institute, because the Institute has given me much, much more than I have given it. That is certain. One of the gifts that it gives me is the time to reflect on what I am doing. I think we lose that in our day- to-day hurry to get the tests corrected, hurry to get the papers corrected, hurry to get new worksheets ready, hurry to get the experiment set up, and so on. We do not always take the time to reflect on what we are really doing and I think that the Institute because it requires you to sit down and think so that you can write your curriculummakes you sit down and think about why you are here, why you are in public-school educationwhich we sometimes forget, as I say when we are dealing with students that may be giving us a hard time or dealing with too many papers to correct. And I find that to be a real giftthe gift of time that the Institute gives us.
And the second giftand I cannot say enough about this giftis the enthusiasm that I get from my colleagues. The people that are involved in the Institute get very excited about what they are doing. You do not see any burnt-out teachers in the Institute. If they are burnt-out when they walk in the door, by the end of the seminar they are really anxious to get started with what they have written up because it is theirs and they are invested in it and they really want to work with it with the kids. And that makes them, of course, enthusiastic with the kids too, because they really want the kids to enjoy it. So time and enthusiasm are the two things that I really feel the Institute has given me as gifts.
The second opportunity is to share in the National Teachers of Mathematics that are introducing new and different topics and content in all levels of the program. And basically this is what I have tried to do in the units on aerodynamics. I have taken those big ideas of flight and I've tried to teach it to lower-level-achieving middle school kids. I have also used some ideas from another unit I did on boolean algebra. I have taught Base-Two to middle school kids.
And these are some of the experiences I have had in the Institute, the personal experience of writing and teaching my own unit from my own viewpoint. I have tried to instill my ideas into the curriculum that is given to me by the city of New Haven. When I see teaching place values, I sneak in Base Two and Boolean algebra. These are some of the ideas that are coming out of the Council of Mathematics for Teaching, trying to sneak in other topics that are not normally found in regular curriculum. I have also gotten the reward of getting positive responses from students. I have seen a new interest and motivation from my lower-level kids because they figure they are doing something that nobody else is doing. And these kids have always failed the master tests and proficiency tests, because they can never add the columns of fractions or decimals. And here we are trying to sneak these new ideas in and we feel that they are motivated because they feel like they are achieving in mathematics. They are doing something else that not even the higher kids are doing.
Students like to feel that they are exclusively engaged in new topics that they are the only ones studying these topicsand some of my students have engaged in show-and-tell. They tell the other classes that, "She is teaching us algebra and you are still doing fractions." So basically what I have been doing is to try to study the traditional topics but from a different viewpoint. I have also used some of my ideas in the after-school academy. Last spring I had a group of eight girls who are high-achieving girls, and they were in grade 7. Statistics was not a part of the course, so what I did was take ideas from the units that I had written and I taught a unit on statistics, and it was very intriguing to see them studying line plots and box plots and feeling very motivated that they are here doing high-school or college- level work.
The experiences in the Institute also afforded me to teach a unit on aerodynamics which talks about some of the mathematical ideas. So the social studies teacher can have the kids learn about who invented flight, all the history of flight, and the math teacher could talk about some of the mathematical contents.
I also would like to share some of the sentiments that these other two speakers have talked aboutthe writing process, the time limits that are set, the opportunity to think and reflect, the opportunity to find time to do something else other than going home and feeling sorry for yourself because of the hard day you have had at schoolthe opportunity also to share some of the things that Yale has to offer that I would have not had an opportunity to do, if I had not joined the Institute. Thank you.
I was attracted to this seminar for two reasons. One, it was an opportunity and a challenge to study American poetry and, two, the syllabus of the seminar proposed an investigation of the diversity of recent American poetry. It promised to study Native American, African American, Spanish American and Chinese American, among other ethnic group poets. It is important to note that this year in my classes I have students from the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, the Phillipines, Russia, Vietnam, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, among other ethnic groups that form the population of Betsy Ross in New Haven public school. The recent American poetry seminar also proposed to study the following, and I wish to quote Professor Whitaker: "To what extent does ethnic or cultural diversity lead to differences in style, theme or poetic strategy?"
I became intrigued by the group of Spanish American poets proposed and saw an open door to prepare a unit for my Spanish-for-Spanish- Speakers eighth-grade class, which I have been teaching for several years without a formal curriculum. I therefore entitled my unit, "Spanish American Voices in American Poetry." My original objective was to instill in the students a better sense of identity, to encourage and enhance bilingual language development and help the students develop a better self-concept. In its first part my unit includes selected poetry of the well-known Spanish writer Federico Garcia- Lorca and the Chilean Pablo Neruda. The second part of the unit is dedicated totally to the poetry of second generation Puerto Rican poets who call themselves "Nyuorican." The language of this poetry is often street-rooted and appeals to the young audience I had in mind. The force that propels the first Nyuorican poets is a sense of social injustice encircled by a feeling of outrage at the endless cycle of poverty and discrimination that plagues their people in the inner cities. But there is also the poetry of more recent female writers, for example, who, though preoccupied with the disenfranchised of the barrios, begin to move away from the barrio into areas such as international issues, feminist issues and cultural identity.
With this unit I wanted my Hispanic students primarily to be exposed to their Hispanic literary heritage in a general sense and more specifically in a particular way to those poets who, like the students, are second generation Puerto Ricans. I wanted them to be exposed to their cultural identity since the traditional English classes do not afford them this opportunity, thus encouraging their social isolation. This school year, however, my Spanish-for-Spanish-speakers classes were dissolvedto my disappointmentdue to low enrollment. I am currently adapting my unit to my new Hispanic culture classa group comprised of several Hispanic students and students who have not had Spanish before. I am teaching the poems in translation and obtaining favorable responses from the students who have begun to write some poetry, however timidly. Although one of the African-American students said to me this week, "Injusticeyou want a poem about injustice? I can write you one right now," and he did. My focus is shifting now to a multicultural curriculum without losing its Hispanic scope.
I would like to conclude this presentation by reading a poem by one of the more lyrical Spanish-American multicultural voices I came across. It also seems a very appropriate poem as we approach 1992. The poem is "Child of the Americas" by Aurora Levins-Morales.
I am a child of the Americas.
A light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean,
A child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a crossroads.
I am a U.S. Puerto Rican Jew.
A product of the ghettos of New York I have never known.
An immigrant and the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants. I
speak English with passion; it's the tongue of my consciousness.
A flashing knife, blade of crystal, my tool, my craft.
I am Caribbean, island grown. Spanish is in my flesh,
Ripples from my tongue, lodges in my hips,
The language of garlic and mangoes,
The singing in my poetry, the flying gestures of my hands.
I am of Latino America, rooted in the history of my continent.
I speak from that body.
I am not African. Africa is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not Taina. Taino is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not European. Europe lives in me, but I have no home there.
I am new. History made me. My first language was Spanglish.
I was born at the crossroads
And I am whole.
I worked with Jules Prown in my first seminar and that has made all the difference. In the first seminar we talked about mood, metaphor, and symbol and pattern in both painting and poetry. Basically, this first unit was kind of short on prose and long on ideas of creative endeavors that students could engage in to become involved in the process. So as they learned about mood, for example, I asked them to create moods, both in the visual mode through collages and paintings and also through poetry. It is the old cliche that if you emulate something, you are showing an appreciation of itand it worked.
A second premise became viable as time went on. I realized that students were really ripe for visual arts in a study or analysis of visual arts. And then it occurred to me that even though students are in smallwell, not small classes, but individual classes like English, Art and Historythat really the humanities are all of a piece. By the time a student graduates from high school, he ought to be able to see the connections among the humanities and realize that we are, in all of those areas, kind of talking about the same things.
So in my subsequent units I ended up, often times, pairing visual art with written art. For example, when we studied 1930s Britain we read an Agatha Christie novel, a George Orwell novel, and we also looked at Hitchcock films. And we discovered that similar themes emerged through these various genres.
The theme of the promise of a classless society was evident. We also noticed themes of isolation, manipulation, and duplicity. When we went back and looked at the good history that has been written about the '30s in Britain, we saw those same themes reflected in history. Certainly Britain was isolated between the two wars and Chamberlain certainly engaged in duplicity in the media, manipulated the masses often.
Another example of pairings occurred in the seminar that I did with Tom Whitaker. I again looked at the 1930s, but this time in America, and students viewed "Citizen Kane" and read various short stories that were written at the same time. A theme emerged and that theme was the failure or the demise of the American dream. At that point I decided that it was important that students realize that just as the poet has tools that enable him to create his art, so too does the filmmaker. So at that point, we discussed various tools, such as lighting and point of view, and students became, I think, more aware of what goes into the art form of film.
The third premise has to do with analysis. Many students feel that they are sort of born able to analyze something. You either have it or you do not have it. And they say Marshall has it, but they do not have it. That is not true. Through Jules Prown, I learned of a method of analysis that is associated with the material culture theory that he has written abouta way to approach artifacts sensitively and taking the time to really look at something in order to understand what it is all about. What I was able to do was to teach that method of analysis to my students, so that they could learn the step-by-step process. They could look at a painting by the time we were throughby the time I was through explaining the analysisand analyze it by themselves without help from me. All they had to learn were the steps. This served to demystify the whole process of thinkingwhat analysis is all about. And there were no more excuses like "I cannot do it." Yes you can, you can follow steps. You follow steps every day of your life. This is another process.
There was an immediate transfer to the writing, because not only did students have something to write about, but they also had a structure, an outline that they could use in papers on various paintings or on short stories of poetry. I was able to apply the method that is used for artifacts to written work as well. So it worked for short stories and it worked for poetry.
A later chapter in my book deals with photography and poetry of New York City. This time we looked at the three time periods: the 1900s, the 1930s and the 1950s and '60s. Again students were taught about the tools of the photographer. Again there was a creative component where students took photographs of New Haven and explained what these photograph said about our city. And again, there emerged similar themes both in poetry and in photography that indicated the concerns of this society at these various times.
The final frontier was television. Many of my students are TV- watchers and they're not readers. I thought I could use TV as an introduction to detective fiction, which I really enjoy. Students could understand the structure of the detective story by watching television. They would also be introduced to particular characters. So for example, we studied Perry Mason, Virgil Tibbs in "The Heat of the Night," and Spencer. TV was not going to be run down. I was going to ask another question. What does TV say about social history? What does TV say about our society? Are the stories that TV presents true stories? When is stereotyping going on? I would get kids to be critical of television programs and decide which were good television programs, where we could learn something, and which were not so good television programs. When we looked at Perry Mason in the 1960s there emerged themes of paranoia, themes of duplicityin the television show and also in the book that we read. The book was interesting because it had a sub-theme that had to do with the emergence of women in the corporate world. And students were able to pick up on that.
The final thing I want to talk about is student reaction to the course. It has been positiveof course I would not say it was negativebut it really has been positive, and I think the important thing for me to say at this point though is that it usually takes two-thirds of the way through the course before I begin to get any good feedback. What I think happens is that kids, about two-thirds of the way through, understand that they are involved in a process and they begin to see that this is [a] developmental kind of thingthat one thing follows another and, yes, that indeed they are learning something.
I have three memories of three different students that I would like to share with youtheir reactions to the course. The first young man claimed, as many others have, that his writing improved through "Visual Art and Literature," that for the first time he felt he had a lot to write about and he understood how to start and how to finish. There is a video made of one of my classes by Peter Herndon, a colleague that is here today. And in it this young man said, "I have never written so much in lifefive paragraphs." When it was shown to a roomful of my colleagues, of course, everyone laughed as you did. But I would like to point out that five paragraphsconsistent paragraphsthat follow one another about one photograph is quite an achievement. And he should have been proud. I was proud of him.
My best memory, or my favorite memory, has to do with a young woman who went home and sat down and looked at a painting that was hanging in her house for years and did an analysis of it, just for fun, and shared this with her father. Well, I thought I had died and gone to teacher heaven. Daily-life transference of what we are doing in classes is heavy stuff. I was really pleased. A third memory has to do with a young lady who I knew was getting a lot out of the course. She seemed to be engaged in it and her writing was improving and she did all the work. But she was one of these individuals who was loath to say anything positive about it publicly. She is at Yale now, by the way; I think she is a senior. What she said to me was that, "Mrs. Marshall, you have ruined film watching for me. I cannot go to the theater and watch a film and relax and let it happen. I am constantly noticing things." I thought to myself, well yippee and thank you very much; you obviously got something out of the course.
The final point I want to make is this: that I originally thought that the course was meant to be taught to college-bound students. As fate would have it, I ended up teaching it to a mixed group of work-bound and college bound seniors. And this was a good thing, because there were many surprises. Those kids who I taught a more traditional English course to previously, who seemed to be not interested, not motivated and did not do particularly well, came alive in "Visual Arts and Literature" and there was some sort of an intellectual awakening on several occasions.
I think that what happened was that they became confident for the first time about their own abilities, and those are the kids that I identify with, I think. Because when I first started teaching in New Haven, I certainly was not very confident at all. Jules Prown can tell you that I was sort of bending his ear about what I was doing and things were not going well. And through my affiliation with the Teachers Institute, I am as confident as I should be in the classroom. I do not want to get any more confident because I am not cocky. All I am saying is that I feel comfortable and things are going well. I guess I am ready now to just start a whole new process, to think of a whole new course, and to start over again. I believe very strongly in this idea of whole-course development. I think it really works. I think when kids are through with the course that has really been really well thought out, they know they have been somewhere and they feel good about it. Thank you very much.